Schools want seat at talks

The Warren County School District is very interested in discussions between the county and Warren General Hospital over the tax exemption issue.

During the hospital’s public board meeting on Wednesday, CEO John Papalia reported working with Warren County Commissioners Chairman Stephen Vanco on a possible deal to resolve the hospital’s tax-exempt status.

Arthur Stewart, president of the school district’s board of directors, said on Friday, “It is my understanding that any settlement must be signed off by all (three) taxing bodies, including the school district.”

“The school district welcomes any discussion,” he said, noting that in the past, “We wanted to set up a summit to facilitate a discussion so the school board would become educated on the specific facts involving each of the institutions.”

“So whether a discussion happens in our conference room or the commissioners’ conference room the school board wants to be involved,” Stewart added. “I look forward to be a part of it, if it is already underway.”

The school district has the biggest financial stake. “As the biggest shareholder, we certainly want to be involved,” he concluded.

A number of other entities in the county, including the YMCA, the Rouse Estate and the Crary Home are facing the same problem.

Beginning in 2011, the Warren County Board of Assessment Appeals revoked the hospital’s status, which would have cost the hospital in the neighborhood of $1.7 million a year.

Last August, Warren County Court of Common Pleas Judge Greg Hammond granted the hospital’s motion for summary judgment and restored its tax-exempt status, ruling that the Warren County Board of Assessment Appeals acted without formal action from a taxing body.

The City of Warren is the third taxing body which would be part of the discussions. City Manager Nancy Freenock was out of town on Friday and unavailable for comment.